WRITTTEN BY RITA CHARLESTON
For Digital First Media
“Growing up, I had no interest in the theater. In fact, I came to it later than some when I changed high schools. I had a hard time making new friends, so my brother suggested I try out for a play. I did and it all worked out for me.”
So says Jessica Bedford, making her mainstage debut at the Walnut Street Theatre in “And Then There Were None,” running through April 26.
The play, adapted to the stage in 1943 from one of Agatha Christie’s best-selling novels, was formerly known as “Ten Little Indians,” and tells the story of ten strangers who are lured by a mysterious host for a relaxing weekend at a remote island resort. Once the guests arrive there is a suspicious death. The guests are trapped. The host accuses each person, via a recording, of having escaped justice for a past murder. Unable to leave the island, the guests begin to share their darkest secrets — until they begin to fall, one by one. The ever-dwindling party rushes to unmask the hidden killer in their midst.
The list of suspects include the sweet Vera Claythorne, played by Lower Merion’s Bedford, who describes her character as one who has come to the island purportedly to serve as a secretary to Mrs. Owens, the lady of the house.
“Vera is one of the most intelligent and capable characters in the play,” says Bedford. “One of my jobs, in playing her realistically, is to figure out what motivates her. I found out that I like her. She’s got an edge, a little dark side, and plenty of nerve. And she uses her head in trying to figure things out.”
Appearing in a play that is so well-known and well-loved by so many can be difficult, Bedford adds, because so many come to the theater with certain expectations. “Additionally, this is a huge play with a huge story, so it requires a huge amount of energy from all of us. As for me, I only leave the stage for about five minutes for a costume change. Other than that, I’m on the stage throughout most of the play.
“And I’m loving every minute,”she continues. “I also love the actors here in Philadelphia who provide a real feeling community, which is a very rare thing.”
When she’s not on stage, Bedford, who holds a bachelors degree from DeSales University and an masters from Villanova, serves as Associate Artistic Director at Montgomery Theatre in Souderton. She also teaches at DeSales and Temple University.
Today, Bedford has amassed many regional credits in such productrions as “Of Mice and Men,” “Noises Off,” “ Pride and Prejudice,” and more.
“I feel blessed to have found my true calling. I feel so lucky to be able to do smething for a living that I love to do. I prefer working on stage as opposed to film. To me, cameras feel cold, but the audience always feels warm,” Bedford concludes.
Tickets range from $20 to $85. Call (215) 574-3550. For more information, check www.walnutstreettheatre.org